For the Love of Pete

Julia Harper
January 2009, Contemporary Romance
Forever, $6.99, 376 pages, Amazon ASIN 0446619183

Grade: C+
Sensuality: Warm

Right off the bat, I’ll confess that I’m usually not a fan of plot-driven road romances since in my experience, the characters tend to get lost in the shuffle. With that said, this one is certainly better than most.

Zoey Addler is living in a Chicago apartment complex in order to be near a woman she’s always considered her sister, her boyfriend, and their baby. Only the circumstances are on the unusual side since the boyfriend is a key witness in an upcoming federal trial and the bad guys are out to get him. Posing as a yuppie couple, they’re protected by undercover FBI agents.

One of those agents is Dante Torelli, AKA Lips of Sin to Zoey, who’s admired the hunk around the building. They officially meet cute over a stolen parking spot only to find themselves – literally within minutes – in pursuit of a bad guy who’s kidnapped the baby Zoey thinks of as her niece. That child is the Pete of the title. (And, yes, I had to keep reminding myself that the baby was a girl.) Action, action, action, and more action later, Dante and Zooey are chasing the bad guy and two Indian women who, for reasons w-a-a-a-a-y too complicated to explain here, get caught up in the action, action, action.

On the positive side, the story holds together nicely and the author does a good job with the jokes. On the less than positive side, it feels rather as if the author is straining to keep her many, many (many, many) balls in the air. When you feel the author’s efforts, that’s not a good thing.

Still, it is a tribute to Julia Harper (who also writes as Elizabeth Hoyt) that she manages to make Zoey and Dante come somewhat to life here amidst all the action, action, action. Note that I said “somewhat” since the emphasis here is on action and cute jokes.

Bottom line for me? While For the Love of Pete is a slightly better than average cutesy-poo romance, it's still a cutesy-poo romance. It’s clear that the author is still feeling her way around her contemporary voice and, for me, she just hasn’t yet hit it.

-- Sandy Coleman

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